According to recent research, the number of seconds it takes you to get to THIS point of the sentence — 8 seconds, to be precise — is the amount of time you have to make an impression on a customer. 

Customers today are seasoned multi-taskers, moving from smartphone to table to laptop up to 21 times in an hour.  

Because of this, marketers must compete for something more precious than completion of the marketing funnel stages. They need to compete for attention in an environment where goldfish reportedly have greater ability to focus than the average person (12 seconds). 

This is the first in a series that will look at the ways relevance, language, channel, personalization, experience, incentives, reputation and knowledge feed into the moment when your customer decides whether or not you are worthy of their attention. 

How Relevance Creates Value 

A guy, we'll call him Joe, has started a new project and is looking for a better way to manage it. To make this choice, he'll either take a look at known trusted brands or service providers, or maybe he’ll start with a quick Google search.

Either way, Joe has an expectation: a mental checklist that includes the requirements of his project, his past experiences (good and bad), things other people have said, and even his own subconscious desire to be successful.

Joe’s Google search brings him first page search results and the description ticks all the boxes: a project management system that allows his employees to collaborate and store files. He has seen information about this product before, so takes a look at the homepage.

Joe goes to the site and gets a video overview of the company's project management tool, which further supports his belief that this tool can meet his needs. It contains several impressive customer referrals by known brands, it appears to offer the features he is looking for and there is a useful Q&A he can reference. He downloads a product overview that he’ll share with his team. 

This type of content provides a kind of value that is often called "exchange value" — the brand offers resources and expertise catered towards the customer’s interests in exchange for the customer's valuable time and attention. 

What would have happened if Joe went to the company site and all he saw was self-referential messages about who the company was? Or worse, what if he had trouble navigating to the actual product page? What if every other product had a clearer message? 

The Relevance Checklist

How does your customer talk about what they want?

Jargon kills relevance with layers of obscurity. If Joe had searched for “Marketing Project Management Tool” and a perfectly relevant vendor refers only to “Timeline Optimization Process Experiences,” chances are he won’t find them. He won’t even begin to give them those eight seconds. Understanding not just what your audience needs, but also how they talk about what they need means using their terminology and speaking in terms they relate to.  

Where is your customer looking? When?

Shaping customer interactions means knowing where your customers go for information at different stages of their buying cycles, what information they will be looking for and when. For marketing organizations, this means that social media, analyst sites, review sites, professional associations and, indeed, their own websites all may have a role to play in meeting Joe where he is. 

Being relevant means intelligent multichannel distribution. An online experience with dynamic content delivery that matches previous buyer behavior provides unprecedented opportunity to create relevance for a customer on a website. (Joe was delighted when he was offered a demo and trial the next time he went to the website). 

Who is your customer?

As a project manager, Joe has some influence over the shortlist of project management tools his company may purchase. But the reality is that he must also meet a specific budget set by his manager and he must convince IT that this piece of software will fit within their existing architecture. In this case, being relevant means that the message not only addresses Joe, but also his boss and IT. 

Knowing your customer entails understanding their role and their influence in a buying decision. What goals do they have? How do they prioritize these goals? What roadblocks do they face? And what objections and concerns will they bring up before buying? 

Using customer profile information, a company can create relevance by tailoring the content experience to match their buyers’ needs.

Make Joe an Offer He Can’t Refuse

The key to relevance lies in traditional marketing principles, but takes on a new-world digital experience spin. Ultimately, it’s about shaping digital content to match what you know about your customer and managing that content on the channels where they are most likely to meet you. 

Stay tuned for the next post in this series, where we’ll take a look at the importance of language and translations.

Title image "101114" (CC BY 2.0) by  tamakisono